‘Don’t feel sorry … just thank God’: Survivors discuss experience of Mississippi apartment fire that killed two

Published 5:37 am Monday, February 27, 2023

A couple sat in folding chairs outside the doors of the Brookhaven Building Sunday. The woman was on her phone, assuring the caller she was OK, and the man was smiling.

They lost everything they owned in the fire that engulfed the Brookwood Apartment Complex on West Chippewa Street Sunday morning just after midnight.

They were dressed in sweat pants, sweat shirts and slip-on shoes. A hose ran to the woman’s nostrils from an oxygen tank between the chairs.

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“I only got out and got it out because of him,” she said, gesturing to the man. He just smiled at her.

Arlene Carter, assistant director of Brookhaven Housing Authority, assured a man they would get in touch with his pharmacy and replace his medicines. She told another the approximately two dozen people at the shelter would have hotel rooms this afternoon, and not to worry about meals or clothes. Other displaced residents had been picked up by family members.

The Red Cross was on its way. Numerous churches, organizations and individuals had made donations of food, water and clothing, and more had been promised.

Another resident of the apartment complex sat alone, her hands palms-up in her lap. Her cell phone was in one hand and a partially-smoked cigarette in the other, dangling its stubborn ash.

She stared at nothing anyone else could see as tears rolled down her cheeks.

Someone asked her if she lost all her possessions in the fire.

“Yeah, but that don’t matter,” she said. “I got out. I’m alive. I’m OK.”

She said people keep calling her, asking if she’s OK and if she needs anything, telling her they feel sorry for her losses. She said she probably won’t answer her phone anymore for now.

“I can’t keep talking. Don’t feel sorry for me, just thank God I’m alive,” she said.

The tears fell faster as she described seeing a friend and neighbor who was not so fortunate.

“I just keep seeing him. I can’t stop seeing it.”

“I’m not a bad person. I’m a Christian,” she said, and asked the question millions of people have asked repeatedly over time — “Why do these bad things happen?”